Centre for Research in Communication and Culture


28 May 2021

The nation in migration studies?

Presented By Professor Marta Bivand Erdal as part of the CRCC Seminar Series

About this event

Processes of international migration are significantly shaped by the borders of nation-states, yet the interdisciplinary field of migration studies, arguably, has an ambivalent relationship with the nation in both analytical and substantive terms. Given the attention new nationalisms and right-wing populism is receiving not least in research on anti-immigration sentiment, the dominance of the nation-state in much research on migrant integration, or how migrant groups are commonly defined by national origin, this might be a surprising claim. Nevertheless, in this talk I will discuss how migration studies may be seen as (often) reifying, ignoring and vilifying the nation. I will support this argument first by presenting a mapping of the use of the nation in migration studies articles, and second, by discussing how nation is substantively related to in different subfields of migration studies. Drawing on examples from a completed research project on ‘negotiating the nation’ I will reflect on the necessity of empirical data and analytical approaches which allow seeing the nation which might be there to be found. Finally, I will reflect on research communication dilemmas related to normativity in the political minefield of public debates on migration.

Marta Bivand Erdal is Research Director, and Research Professor in Migration Studies, at Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). As a Human Geographer she is interested in the impacts of migration and transnationalism in both emigration and immigration contexts. This has led to research on interactions of migrant transnationalism and integration; remittances, migration and development; return mobilities; citizenship, nation and diversity; and migration & religion. Marta’s work draws on interview, focus group, and survey data, paying critical attention to the use of categories. She has published extensively in migration studies and regularly engages with governmental and non-governmental stakeholders. She led the ‘Negotiating the nation: Implications of ethnic and religious diversity for national identity’ project funded by the Research Council of Norway (2013-2017) (the final report can be read here). She is currently working on several migration research projects, including MIGNEX on migration, development and migration management, and her ERC project Migration rhythms in trajectories of upward social mobility in Asia.

Contact details

  • Questions about this event? Contact the CRCC Seminar Series organisers